“It’s NOT the wrong button. Here!” The old remote still worked, if you pressed hard enough. June tossed it back into his lap. “And turn the volume down BEFORE you switch over.” She recognised menace in her own voice. You had to push too hard sometimes. She returned to her iPad and tapped the Uber Yourself app. A moment of processing elicited a cheery “service waiting”.
“So get ready,” she said as she returned to the wreckage of lunch. “Kevin!”
Kevin started to hunt down a clean shirt as June went outside to press buttons. Her credit bracelet activated the Super-Uber’s control pad. A large display started counting the minutes down from 120. Kevin eased himself across to the middle of the vehicle. June keyed in Respite Drive. The doors closed as various beeps alerted anyone in the immediate vicinity. She watched the little taxi trundle back up the driveway.
The little car gathered pace on the straight road. Near the Inverloch Road intersection, Kevin’s right foot reached for an imaginary brake pedal. He still had his driving instincts. At the corner, sensors in the road gave the clear-way signal, so there was no need to slow down. Kevin relaxed and concentrated on a quiz program as his vehicle slotted in with the rest of the smart road network.
The Super-Uber reached 110 km/h. Some distance behind, three more cars travelled line astern. As he topped a crest a reassuring voice intoned “Stopping ... stopping”. The car stopped. A wombat lumbered across the road. Three Super-Ubers were soon parked behind Kevin’s vehicle. Bursts of green lights communicated the approach of a milk tanker from the opposite direction. Kevin and the other Super-Uber users watched their screens, ignorant of the data exchange.
Back in the house, June catalogued the silence. Magpies lunged at reflections on dirty windows. In a far paddock a driverless eTractor fed out hay. If she could have been bothered, she might have noticed a drone hovering above a few heifers. Somewhere a computer was counting the herd. June headed to the garage. The car door had to be slammed a couple of times before it was really shut. She turned the key, selected D and was gone.
“I was feelin’ kinda sporty” was how Bob would later explain the accident. Heading for the beach he became distracted. Too late, he spotted a row of four little smart cars blocking his path. With no room to stop he put the boot in and twirled the wheel. As his car whooshed past, the tanker appeared in front of him. Another twirl of the wheel and there was just enough room to squeeze through the shrinking gap. Bob collected a few fence posts with his dumb car before it stopped in a tangle of broken wood and wire.
Green lights turned to red. A policeperson in Sale commandeered the dairy drone to survey the wreck. A desk-bound co-ordinator summoned a recovery vehicle as the network rerouted vehicles around the incident.
Kevin’s taxi trundled down to the Bass Highway roundabout. Banked up traffic demanded a pause for a few seconds while a distant computer converted the highway into a one-way road and sent the Super-Ubers down both lanes. The traffic jam was soon cleared.
With a dwindling amount of Kevin-Free Time ticking away, June parked near the primary school. A row of Kinder-Ubers sat with their gullwing doors open to the fresh air as they suckled mains electricity. The signwriting on the next building screamed Zinger! Carefree cars since 2017. “Some heritage – five years!” she mused as she ran her hand along the bluntness of a vehicle.
The Zinger salesperson struggled from coffee to coffee as he studied fading portraits of big cars on a mountain race track. “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday; chrome and cubic inches were all that mattered. All they look at now is the shape of the seat. A hundred years of styling and marketing? Redundant! No more cosmetic updates. It's all about range and connectivity. Steering wheels are a thing of the past; windows are a delete option on some models."
At the prospect of a sale, he abandoned his daily lamentation.
“Good choice! The new Gofar 2+2.” He gently leaned on the roof of the car. June stood beside him. “Giant batteries eliminate range anxiety; electric motors in each wheel provide strong braking.” He paused for breath. “With power units hidden between the wheels, there’s so much room. Fifty shades of silver to choose from.”
She asked about connectivity. He asked about her trade in; a Nissan Cedric. He asked again; no, seriously, a Cedric? He calculated as she talked. He made a phone call. She looked at the sporty little Gofast 2. Room enough for her and some luggage. He put his hand over the phone to ask again “A carer’s pension?”
He placed the phone on the Gofar's roof. She leaned toward him and asked about the death.
"Oh, that thing in America?" he asked casually. "Couldn't happen here. Our Smart Road network ..."
She cut him off. "That car couldn't spot a white truck right in front of it."
"We have some great end of month discounts right now on this model ..." he said as he reached for the phone.
Kevin’s Super-Uber delivered him safely home. He sat in his chair and started searching for his best friend. June let him fluster along for a few minutes then handed him the shiny new remote. It had great big buttons and friendly warning tones. A warm red glow implored Kevin to "PRESS” if he wanted a quiz show. He pressed.
June fetched the rest of the week's supplies from the garage. She slammed the door of the Cedric harder than necessary. It was old but it still worked.
July 28, 2016
Hi Geoff,exciting look at the future. However the extremely slow introduction of electric cars may be an indication our high emission cars will be with us for a long time yet.
Daryl Hook, Pound Creek😃